'Don't let up' on virus precautions, says Walsh, citing holiday activities

One year after a state of emergency was first declared in Boston, Mayor Walsh on Tuesday urged city residents to keep their guard up, get tested for Covid-19, seek out vaccinations, and avoid large gatherings ahead of the St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day holiday in the city.

“Now is not the time to let up.We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Walsh said at a press conference. “More people are getting vaccinated and less are coming down with the virus and we want to keep it that way.”

The current infection rate in the city has dropped to 3.6 percent, the mayor said, warning that there has been “a little bit of an uptick over the last 10 days, which is unfortunate.”

An average of 176 people per day tested positive for the disease over a seven-day period ending Feb. 28, he noted.

“A 3.6 positivity rate of Covid-19 is a low number and I’d like to be able to stand here next week and say that number is even lower,” said Walsh. “We’re working on that now to make sure we get those numbers as low as possible.” 

As of March 3, more than 113,000 Bostonians aged 16 and older had received their first dose of either the Moderna orPfizer vaccine— about 20 percent of the city’s over-16 population. More than 56,000 people — roughly 10 percent— are now fully vaccinated, he said.

There are now 19 vaccination sites in the city, including 8 community-based sites, 9 pharmacies, and 2 mass sites—the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury and Fenway Park, which will be replaced over the next few weeks by the John B. Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay to make way for the Red Sox and the start of their season.

“We will continue to hold 50 percent of the appointments for local residents of color from the neighborhoods around Reggie Lewis,” said Walsh. 

The mayor urged residents who haven’t been vaccinated to get tested at one of the city’s 25 testing sites, regardless of symptoms. Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of Health and Human Services, said the Covid metrics have decreased steadily since January, but added: “We have started to see them flatten a little bit, so we’re going to continue to monitor for increased activity.

“It’s vitally important that we continue to get tested,” he said. “Ninety percent of folks are not fully vaccinated and so I stress to people the importance of getting tested. We’ve started to see testing usage go down, and it’s important that we continue to use this critical tool.”

St. Patrick’s Day, and the traditional packing of barrooms and house parties, is clearly of concern to Walsh and his team. Restaurants will continue to enforce a 90-minute limit on seating in place, the mayor said, and  no lines should be formed outside restaurants.

Ahead of the holiday last year, bars around the city voluntarily shut down when long lines formed outside – especially in South Boston. The parade has been cancelled again this year and the mayor urged people residents not to engage in any kind of large gatherings and not to have house parties with anyone who is not an immediate family member.

“The city is going to be enforcing safety protocols,” he said. “I’m asking the people of Boston to do the right thing. Don’t put our progress at risk because people want to have a party on St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to celebrate when the pandemic is over.” 

He added: “In terms of Boston’s tourism economy...  If we don’t get through these next couple of months, and the numbers skyrocket again, tourism might lose the whole year.” 

In Boston, limits on private gatherings remain at 10 people for indoor events, and 25 outdoors. 

Outdoor dining in Boston is slated to begin April 1, but the mayor noted that city officials are looking at ways to “see if we can move that date forward.”

By April 1, per a phased-in reopening schedule for Boston Public Schools, all students will have been invited back to classrooms for in-person learning. Last week, Pre-K through 3rd graders were welcomed back, with grades 4-8 scheduled to return on March 15, and 9-12th graders invited into classrooms on March 29. 

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